New York - Libya's newly appointed leader apologised at the United Nations on Thursday for the crimes of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi and told critics that supporting the Arab Spring was worth it.
During his address to the UN General Assembly, Mohammed el-Megarif, leader of Libya's ruling national congress, said the Libyan people were moderate and the country would never be home to extremist groups.
"I stand before you today, before the entire world, to apologise for all the harm, all the crimes committed by that despot against so many innocents, to apologise for the extortion and terrorism he meted out on so many states," Megarif said.
A Nato bombing campaign last year, approved by the UN Security Council, helped underpin an "Arab Spring" uprising that ended Gaddafi's dictatorship and finally claimed his life in October.
"Some wonder was the Arab Spring worthy of support?" said Megarif.
"To them, I would say would it have been better for the corrupt dictatorial regimes to remain in place for decades more, oppressing and .... violating some of the most fundamental human rights? Should they have been allowed to continue pillaging the wealth of the people, leading some ... to extremism?" he said.
American deaths a 'loss for Libya'
The killing of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in what Washington has called a "terrorist" attack on the US mission in Benghazi on 11 September has heightened Western concerns about the power of Islamist militants in Libya.
Megarif described the deaths of the Americans as a "loss for Libya".
"This catastrophe will only increase our solidarity to entrench the hopes and objectives in which Ambassador Chris Stevens believed. We shall defeat the plots of the backward terrorists who do not represent Libya," he said.
At less than half an hour long, Megarif's speech was shorter and less dramatic than Gaddafi's one and only appearance at the UN General Assembly in 2009, when he spoke for 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Gaddafi touched on subjects ranging from the assassination of US President John F Kennedy, the US invasion of Grenada and free medicine for the world's children.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Wednesday the death of Gaddafi was as tragic as that of Stevens, as he delivered a scathing critique of US, UN and Nato actions.
He said the UN Security Council had allowed itself to be "abused" last year by authorising "all necessary measures" - diplomatic code for military intervention - to protect civilians in Libya in the Nato operation that eventually toppled Gaddafi's government and led to his death at the hands of rebels.